Leaders of two key Senate panels seemed optimistic they would be able to merge their respective healthcare reform bills and bring the legislation to a vote on the Senate floor in the next few weeks.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved along party lines its comprehensive reform bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act, whose key provisions include a public plan option, an employer mandate and long-term-care insurance coverage.
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who's chairing the panel in the absence of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said he had “lots of confidence that we'll be able to bring our two bills together,” referring to the Senate Finance Committee's legislation.
In a statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) reaffirmed his commitment to work with the HELP panel to bring legislation to the Senate floor “that ensures quality, affordable healthcare for every American and lowers costs over the long-term.” The Finance Committee is expected to officially release its reform bill before the end of this week. When asked if he considered moving the HELP bill to the floor on its own, Dodd responded, “that won't be necessary,” adding he was confident Baucus would “get his bill out so we can work on it together.”